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University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department 628

Posted by timothy
from the gator-fans-on-the-line dept.
DustyShadow writes "The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million. The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments. Students at UF have already organized protests, and have created a website dedicated to saving the CS department. Several distinguished computer scientists have written to the president of UF to express their concerns, in very blunt terms. Prof. Zvi Galil, Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech, is 'amazed, shocked, and angered.' Prof. S.N. Maheshwari, former Dean of Engineering at IIT Delhi, calls this move 'outrageously wrong.' Computer scientist Carl de Boor, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and winner of the 2003 National Medal of Science, asked the UF president 'What were you thinking?'"
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University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department

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  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:34AM (#39769543) Homepage

    Speaking as a refugee from academia after spending most of my adult life attending or working at colleges, I would say this is exactly right.

  • hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:36AM (#39769561)
    I'm curious: why Computer Science? The program shouldn't be very expensive on a per-student basis, especially compared to the physical sciences. Was the department just uniquely dysfunctional or under-performing? Why not cut, say, physics? Not that Physics should be cut either, but the choice of Computer Science seems arbitrary.
  • Re:not eliminated? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:38AM (#39769571)

    FTFA:

    so, if it will be a teaching only department, that doesn't seem the same as eliminated. They'll move the engineering in with the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, and it seems leave CISE to teach programming.

    So in other words, they are eliminating computer science.

  • by ledow (319597) on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:46AM (#39769653) Homepage

    Then get some decent staff and raise the prices if necessary (or raise the number of students, which would probably be easier).

    If a WHOLE DEPARTMENT wasn't publishing good stuff, you need to start again from scratch. To my mind, that's no different to a WHOLE COMPANY having people who just sit on their bums all day.

  • by overshoot (39700) on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:46AM (#39769657)

    Florida has to cut the budget somwhere, and universities are hotbeds of radical socialist indoctrination. Especially computer science. Now, if the CS department could pay its own way like football does that might be different.

    Fortunately, Florida State has found a solution to the problem: their economics department has found a sponsor who will provide lots of funding in return for veto power over new faculty hires. UF is no doubt looking for to improve on the method.

  • Re:hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:52AM (#39769729)

    They're saying it was inefficient to have it as its own department separate from computer engineering and software engineering disciplines.

    But I wonder where one would study advanced topics in computing now. Maybe the answer is "not at the University of Florida."

  • Going backwards? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yoshi_mon (172895) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:00AM (#39769791)

    Speaking as a Gator who went to school back when if you wanted to study computers you had to go into the Engineering School it sounds like they are moving backwards. As in like when I went to UF if you wanted to study CIS you had to take Calc 1-3 (ok...most of us were fine with that), Chem 1-2 (hum...), and Physics 1-2 (gahhh?), along with some other very non-CIS related but much more related Engineering classes. In effect if you wanted to learn to be a programmer, network engineer, or even a web designer you had to have the background of a EE.

    It was total overkill and drove a lot of students away from the department. But at the time, late 80's-early 90's, the whole PC thing was still relatively brand new so that a large institution like UF had not adapted its curriculum was no huge shock. Disappointing yes but not all that shocking.

    Now TFA is very light on details on how what the new curriculum for students would be. If they are indeed going back to asking CIS students to have EE level requirements. So this might just be a bit of good ol' yellow journalism. But it is indeed worth of some attention such that we can full details on how and why this is happening.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:00AM (#39769801)

    Uh, no... Physics is to Mechanical Engineering as Chemistry is to Chemical Engineering as Computer Science is to Computer Engineering

    You obviously do not have an Engineering Degree.

    First off, you have obviously never heard of Engineering Physics, which has the same requirements as a Physics Degree, but with ABET requirements tacked on to the electives.

    Second off, even with a normal Physics curriculum, you can take Mechanical Engineering courses, and the FE, but it will take more than 4 years to your PD, I believe 8 for a non-ABET accredited Physics degree. You cannot do this with Chemistry to Chemical Engineering.

    Lastly Computer Engineering focuses on things like computer hardware and there can be a nebulous area between Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Where as Computer Science degrees may be under the Engineering School, or Arts and Sciences School.

  • by Dareth (47614) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:27AM (#39770077)

    As a computer science graduate I often ask why I did not have the choice to get a degree in systems administration.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:29AM (#39770093)

    You want to study Computer Science? Enroll somewhere else. You live in Florida, and want to study Computer Science cheaply at a state subsidized school? Move.

    If folks in Florida sees no point in educating Computer Science students, let 'em. The loss will be theirs. Say "Hello" to your new neighbors from India.

  • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:36AM (#39770159)
    A number of posters have been wondering why UF cut the Computer Science department. It is because the administrators at the University of Florida want more funding from the state of Florida, and a useful and popular STEM program is a higher value hostage than, say, any Arts and Humanities program.

    My basis for this is OP's linked article in Forbes, which quite transparently links the elimination of the department with state budget cuts. Could you imagine how that would read if UF threatened closure of a Literature department and elimination of courses in postmodernism and semiotics? Most sane people would yawn at that.
  • by Rolgar (556636) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:28AM (#39770683)

    Maybe. But as an activity that can build excitement for the school among potential schools, you can see a loss as an advertising cost to bring in new students and other interest.

    An example most folks aren't aware of:
    Kansas State University (I'm an alumnus) up until 1987 was the worst Division 1A football school as far as historical record, and it wasn't even close. We had a 0-26-1 record in 27 consecutive games. Sports Illustrated did a cover story on how bad we were. Enrollment was trending down, with projections having us losing our football program and other significant loss of status.

    Around that time, we hired an assistant coach from the University of Iowa, Bill Snyder. In 1993, we began a 10 year run where we won at least 9 games every year, and finished ranked in the top 25 every year. The decline in enrollment reversed. The school has had many successes academically as well as athletically (one of the top schools for Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater and other graduate scholarship contests, we were awarded the BioDefense facility, although funding may get cut due to politics), much of it due to the enthusiasm generated by having a winning program, and the perception that the people in charge know how to build success.

    If that is the outcome that can come from a winning athletic department, I'm sure many universities consider that an investment in the overall success of the school. Now, our particular athletic department just became profitable enough that it is going to be run without state assistance. All money spent must be generated from sales, media contracts, conference profits, and donations. This year's $20 million profit is funding facility enhancements to keep us competitive with other schools which will probably outspend us in this area long term.

  • by MxTxL (307166) <.mlutter. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:29AM (#39770705)

    It is neither fair nor smart to say "Let's grab money from a successful department and use it to prop up an unsuccessful one."

    It would not be smart if your only goal is to run the University as a business, where you cut unsuccessful revenue centers and fund/build/grow the more successful ones to focus on profitability of the corporation. From that respect, economy of scale works the same way as it does at Coca-cola or Wal-Mart. Cut the under-performers. It is cheaper, easier and more profitable to pump out 10 million of the same widgets than it is to pump out very small batches of all-different widgets.

    HOWEVER

    If you are a believer in the concept of academic freedom and in the power of diversity of knowledge and thought (idealistic, I know) then it is vital that more successful departments fund less successful ones. I, for one, want there to exist people who study Latin, despite there being a limited usefulness for it as a career. I want people who study ancient Macedonian philosophy, basket weaving, Sanskrit and all the other fields that most people might deride as training for a career at McDonalds. I want there to be someone who knows everything there is to know about the inner politics of ancient Sumeria. The sum-total of human knowledge is vast and it is important that it be preserved but also expanded with the rigor of academic scrutiny.

    I want this done, because the concept of Academia demands it. If we churn out millions of kids at a time all with the same thoughts and ideas gleaned from mass-market jobs training programs, we will lose the intellectual diversity that is needed to preserve academic and scientific expansion. There may be nothing that someone studying ancient Indian tapestries can ever tell a nuclear engineer that will advance his work, but both types of people are necessary to increase the useful progress of art and science.

    I understand that the bills need to be paid in order to keep the lights on, and also that there are fields that have much more use in the real world as careers. There are certain fields that have more utility in advancing cutting-edge science and, rightly, should receive more attention for their greater potential to advance the human race. However, we shouldn't neglect more arcane knowledge entirely because of this. The more popular fields need to subsidize the less popular ones, less we risk whole branches of study dying off. This is not the most efficient method of creating profit for the university, but that shouldn't be what universities are all about. They should be about increasing the sum-total of human knowledge in all branches.

  • Re:CS is redundant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by V!NCENT (1105021) on Monday April 23, 2012 @09:47AM (#39770875)

    What kind of a shitty university do you get these from? In my country (not the US), I'm not even halfway and already I had to learn:
    1. Operating System design;
    2. industrial processor assembly languages;
    3. UML;
    4. java;
    5. C;
    6. C++;
    7. Processor designs;
    8. Math;
    9. Logic;
    10. MySQL;
    11. Unix and Windows networking;
    12. Internet protocols (TCP/IP, UDP, etc);
    13. Networking architecture (internet tiers, wireless networking, industrial ethernet, etc.)
    14. Logic boards (breadboards, soldering, reading ARM specs and erreta's etc.)
    15. Writing a Bluetooth device driver;
    16. Game design (3D modeling, OpenGL, storyboarding, etc)
    17. Professional skills (project management, documentation, etc.)
    18. Optimizing algorythms;
    19. Learning industrial processes;
    20. What did I miss?

    Sound like the level of eduation in your area sucks balls...

  • by LambdaWolf (1561517) on Monday April 23, 2012 @10:25AM (#39771427)

    They don't make money from ticket sales... they make money from ticket sales?

    Someone skipped logic 101...

    The GP's post made sense to me.

    Their athletics program makes money, not from {ticket sales} but from {donations, ticket sales}.

    Unequal sets. :)

Moneyliness is next to Godliness. -- Andries van Dam

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